Tuesday, August 28, 2012

...an escape...

"It's about reaching that moment of pure ecstasy when a drawing just happens. Where every move you make with your hand and every thought you have in your head grows in front of you without any mistakes; no rubbing out, starting again and getting frustrated. It's like being in a trance-it's fluid-and you almost don't remember doing the picture. Drawing is an escape from all the unnecessary things in life that get in the way of being free..." -Jamie Hewlett

Monday, August 27, 2012

Killing The Human Race...

What's the average guy to do?

Is progress really better when you turn your back on the people who helped build this world? What's left for them when technology takes over?

On Sunday, August 19, 2012, John Markoff wrote an article for THE NEW YORK TIMES titled "Skilled Work, Without the Worker: New Wave of Deft Robots Is Changing Global Industy." Here are some highlights from the article that have me concerned:

"DRACHTEN, the Netherlands-At the Philips Electonics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way.

At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human...

And they do it all without a coffee break-three shifts a day, 365 days a year...

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution...

"With these machines, we can make any consumer device in the world," said Binne Visser, an electical engineer who manages the Philips assembly line in Drachten...

Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: "As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache."

The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost. This year, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the case for a rapid transformation. "The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications," they wrote in their book, "Race Against the Machine."...

Beyond the technical challenges lies resistance from unionized workers and communities worried about jobs. The ascension of robots may mean fewer jobs are created in this country...

Yet in the state-of-the-art plant, where the assembly line runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are robots everywhere and few human workers...

Such advances in manufactoring are also beginning to transform other sectors that employ millions of workers around the world. One is distribution, where robots that zoom at the speed of the world's fastest sprinters can store, retrive and pack goods for shipment far more efficiently than people. Robots could soon replace workers at companies like C & S Wholesale Grocers, the nation's largest grocery distributor, which has already deployed robot technology.

Rapid improvement in vision and touch technologies is putting a wide array of manual jobs within the abilities of robots...

The Obama administration says this technological shift presents a historic opportunity for the nation to stay competitive. "The only way we are going to maintain manufacturing in the U.S. is if we have higher productivity," said Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy...

If the United States does not compete for advanced manufacturing in industries like consumer electronics, it could lose product engineering and design as well. Moreover, robotics executives argue that even though blue-collar jobs will be lost, more efficient manufacturing will create skilled jobs in designing, operating and servicing the assembly lines, as well as significant numbers of other kinds of jobs in the communities where factories are...

Mr. Graves wears headsets and is instructed by a computerized voice on where to go in the warehouse to gather or store products. A centralized computer the workers call The Brain dictates their speed. Managers know exactly what the workers do, to the precise minute.

Several years ago, Mr. Graves's warehouse installed a German system that automatically stores and retrieves cases of food. That led to the elimination of 106 jobs, roughly 20 percent of the work force. The new system was initially maintained by union workers with high seniority. Then that job went to the German company, which hired non-union workers.

Now Kroger plans to build a highly automated warehouse in Tolleson. Sixty union workers went before the City Council last year to oppose the plan, on which the city has not yet ruled.

"We don't have a problem with the machines coming," Mr. Graves told city officials. "But tell Kroger we don't want to lose these jobs in our city."


Michael Thomas Cain featured in the August 2012 ASU Alumni Columns.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

...if people refuse to be challenged...

On Sunday, August 19, 2012, Lawrence Downes wrote a piece titled "As Woody Turns 100, We Protest Too Little" for THE NEW YORK TIMES. Here is something that struck me as interesting as we wrap up Enough's Enough!:

"In October the Kennedy Center will throw a centennial party for Woody Guthrie, a star-studded concert with tickets topping out at $175. It will be America's ultimate tribute to a beloved troubadour. "Through his unique music, words and style," the Kennedy Center says, "Guthrie was able to bring attention and understanding to the critical issues of his day."
Poor Woody. The life and music of America's great hobo prophet, its Dust Bowl balladeer, boiled down to this: He brought attention to the critical issues of his day...
But under the saintly folk hero has always been an angry vigilante-a fascist-hating, Communist-sympathizing rabble-rouser who liked to eviscerate his targets, sometimes with violent imagery. He was a man of many contradictions, but he was always against the rich and on the side of the oppressed.
He wrote hard-hitting songs for hard-hit people...
Woody's musical heirs tried their best...
It's hard to be a troubadour with dangerous ideas if people refuse to be challenged or offended by them."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Michael Thomas Cain in LakewoodPatch!

Lakewood Native on the Big Stage for International Fringe Festival

Michael Cain presenting “Enough’s Enough!” at the 16th annual theater festival in New York City.
By Colin McEwen August 1, 2012

It’s been a few years of trying, but Lakewood native Michael Cain has finally caught his big break under the bright lights of New York City's theater scene.

The actor-turned-playwright is unveiling his production of “Enough’s Enough!” at the La MaMa Theatre in New York City on Aug. 11.

The stage couldn’t be much bigger.

The show is being presented as part of the 16th annual New York International Fringe Festival.

Cain said that the play is done in the “absurdist style” of Samuel Beckett — one of his major theatrical influences.

“I wanted to create some sort of play that honors that,” Cain said. “It’s a strange, grotesque and absurd kind of play.”

The story is set in an office, revolving around a man and woman trapped in the space and forced to live in confinement.

“It’s humorous, with some pretty heavy themes,” he said. “I am so excited to have the piece produced, to see it live and breathe.”

Making ends meet

Things haven’t always been easy for Cain.

To make ends meet, he’s worked in nearly all facets of the theater, including acting and technical work.

“I felt like a floundered and struggled as an actor for a few years,” he said. “I waited a lot of tables. It’s been quite a journey filled with some obstacles."

“There was a moment where I thought maybe I should be doing this anymore. But this is a passion for me.”

To help him along, Cain earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Adelphi University.

In addition to writing "Enough's Enough!" he will also direct it when it opens Aug. 11, “because I knew exactly how I wanted it.”

“To be a part of the International Fringe festival, it’s a quite a accomplishment,” Cain said. “This is definitely one of the bigger steps in my career. It’s all kind of finally coming together into something workable. I guess you could say I am finally figuring it out."

He said he’s been busy lately, “writing a lot of plays.”

Lakewood is still home

Although he moved to Georgia when he was young, Cain moved back to Lakewood where he lived until five years ago when he set off for the Big Apple.

Cain said his roots in the theater are planted in Lakewood.

His grandmother, Phyllis Cain, who lived above the Detroit Theatre for nearly four decades years before it was demolished in May, used to take him to see movies downstairs.

She worked as the manager, and young Michael work the candy counter.

The first movie he remembers seeing there was “Star Wars.”

His father, Tom Cain, was the technical director of the Lakewood Little Theatre, which later became known as the Beck Center for the Arts.

“Lakewood is very special to me,” Cain said. “Ultimately, it is my home. There are many days I wish I could be back there. It’s always with me.”

Enough's Enough! is mentioned on indie theater blog

Enough's Enough! on indie theater blog!

FringeNYC 2012: Playwrights Find New Plays For Us

August 17, 2012
A couple of weeks ago I asserted that the New York International Fringe Festival is an important source for rich, challenging, new American drama. And last week I told you about our team of reviewers who have set out to identify some of that for us in this year’s festival.

Well I am happy to report that they’ve been delivering, in spades! As expected, FringeNYC 2012 is offering dozens of interesting and surprising new plays to its audience. Many of nytheatre.com’s reviewers are playwrights, and most of them have been through the FringeNYC experience themselves, and so I thought I would begin my survey of this year’s festival with some of their recommendations.

Julia Lee Barclay is excited about three shows:

BUMBERSHOOT: The blurb promises a play about “weary drag queens, corporate irresponsibility, tea-party paranoia.” Julia says: “The writing is strong, especially [playwright Derek] Davidson’s ear for the inarticulate in contemporary dialogue….There are very interesting questions of identity, class and politics that emerge in the play and some moments of pure theatrical grace…” Read the entire review here.

FLIPSIDE: Julia writes: “Flipside is one of those rare theatrical experiences that is equal parts intelligent, funny, moving, important and innovative. The extraordinary company HartBeat, an ensemble out of Hartford, CT, created this piece in workshops, devising it as a group, working with a drug dealer to get his story.  Equally compelling is the story the piece tells of the policeman who eventually arrests him.” Here’s the rest of her review.

WAKE UP: She’s even more enthusiastic, if possible, about this play about contemporary racial attitudes in America. “What a breath of fresh air is the must-see Wake Up!  This Redbone Theatrical production written by Kim Fischer, directed by Travis Baird with Trevor Salter, Glenn Quentin, Max Carpenter, Max Bisantz and Baird in the ensemble is as good as it gets at FringeNYC. Seeing this show reminded me of when I first saw Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, except with the more immediate and dangerous presence of live theater.” Read more…

Pink Milk

Lynn Berg recommends PINK MILK: This play is inspired by the life of gay British mathematician Alan Turing. Says Lynn, “Alex Paul Young has written a poetic, magical story loosely spun from Turing’s life full of fantastic devices like talking daisies and hypodermic needles, robot boys and poison apples. Brandon Powers’ direction helps spin Young’s script into a magic spell. He gracefully composes the performers to interweave the often poetic dialogue with dance and movement. It all feels like a choreographed dream or fairy tale.” Go here for the full review.

Theresa Buchheister really likes Jeff Seabaugh’s solo WE CRAZY, RIGHT?: “Seabaugh IS an artist… and approaches his story with diligent technique and craftsmanship. He has a great awareness of the slippery nature of individuality and universality. His is a distinctly personal story. It is his life and experience translated into a one man show. At the same time, it is a show about parenting, childhood, milestones, perspective, struggle…  Themes we all relate to (in varying ways) effortlessly.” Read the entire review.

Nat Cassidy (represented in FringeNYC ’12 with SONGS OF LOVE: A THEATRICAL MIXTAPE) finds lots to commend in CAUSE OF FAILURE: It’s the only show in FringeNYC with a human heart as one of its characters. Nat opines, “There are scenes here of, for want of a less on-the-nose descriptor, heartbreaking power, particularly for those who have had to deal with a loved one’s deteriorating condition.” See the complete review.


Edward Elefterion is a fan of BOXPLAY: “It’s Kaspar Hauser meets sci-fi meets reality TV (theatre in this case, thankfully) meets absurdism 101 and it never ceased to surprise and delight me during its 75-minute run time,” Ed enthused about this new work by Seattle-based Steven Ackley. “boxplay was such a wonderful start to my 2012 FringeNYC experience, I’m afraid it may have spoiled me.” Find out more here.

Jason S. Grossman was impressed by ALIEE AND BETTINA’S (SORT OF) GROWNUP SLEEPOVER: “The show is enjoyable, because [Aliee] Chan and [Bettina] Warshaw have a lot to say. They bound about the stage (and into the audience) role-playing and playing dress up. There is rarely a dull moment. The creative team here has every intention of making you feel like you are on a (sort of) psychoanalytical adult play date, and they succeed.” See the rest of the review.

David Hilder really likes SALAMANDER STARTS OVER by Armando Merlo: “[T]he script he has written… is immaculately structured.  Tales of how friendships evolve and fade away intermix beautifully with very funny family conversations and wrestling matches (Merlo was a member of his high school’s NJ state championship wrestling squad for four years).” David’s entire review is here.

Richard Hinojosa enjoyed ENOUGH’S ENOUGH: Richard writes, “I really enjoyed this short dark comedy.  [Michael Thomas] Cain’s script is sharp and subtle.  At the top of the show you may think that this play is just another story about nameless, nobodies working in the corporate underbelly but it is far from that.  The script unfolds gradually to reveal darker and darker revelations about the world of the play.” Learn more here.


Claire Kiechel reviewed INDEPENDENTS: This musical about Revolutionary War re-enactors has a tragic history, which Claire talks about in her review: “These are deeper concerns and questions than ones often addressed in musicals, which is why it is so heartbreaking that Independents’ very promising book writer Marina Keegan was killed only five days after graduating from Yale. There are no words to express what a loss this is.”

Ed Malin is high on YBW – YELLOW BRICK WALL: This two-woman comedy, in which Siho Elsmore and Marisa Marquez explore and explode a variety of stereotypes, earned this comment from Ed: “There’s not a dull moment in this show, nor will there likely be an empty seat.” Read more.

Montserrat Mendez has two top picks:

FORTUNATE DAUGHTER: This is a one-woman play by Thao Nguyen. “What Thao’s one-person masterpiece has that most one-person shows don’t,” says Montserrat, “is a cast of characters fully realized, all of whom have their own intentions and desires; and then she goes on to play them out, imagining what their reactions will be and then playing out their actual reactions. Because we’re not told what the characters are thinking, she manages to surprise us.” Here’s the review.

LINDA MEANS TO WAIT: Montserrat says about Linda Kuriloff’s solo show, “There are great lessons to be found in the play; there are also simple moments of recognition that it is our cultural differences that make us all the same in one way, and yet, each of us are wonderfully unique.” Read more.

Kim Wadsworth recommends THE 27 CLUB: “High and low culture race to the grave in this tragicomic deconstruction of fame from NC’s Fly-By-Night Theatre,” goes the show’s blurb. Kim says, “…throughout I was struck by the inventiveness and poetry of much of what everyone was saying. Even when he’s trying to write ‘badly’—in character as the pompous, overly-dense Howard—[playwright Tommy] Trull still has a lot of poetry in this script…” Check out the full review.

Amy E. Witting (whose own play FALLING is in this year’s festival too!) chooses THE EGG PLAY: “A story of one event but told from the perspective of each individual unfolds in this seventy minute drama of love, loss, and heartbreak…. The Egg Play by San Francisco-based playwright Candice Benge draws the audience in from the intrigue and mystery of the events and left me wanting more.” The Egg Play also received the endorsement of FringeNYC co-founder John Clancy (all over Facebook, plus in a phone call to yours truly.) Here’s Amy’s full review.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review of Enough's Enough!

nytheatre.com review of Enough's Enough!


Enough's Enough!

nytheatre.com review
reviewed by Richard Hinojosa  ·  August 13, 2012

When I was a kid I remember hearing my parents grumble about “making ends meet” and I thought it was some kind of cheap meat that they could scarcely afford in order to feed our family.  As many families are now, we struggled to survive in those days and so do the characters in Enough’s Enough. However, in playwright Michael Thomas Cain’s dark comic world the characters may very well end up as cheap meat.

Meet Monica and Ted, two cogs in a corporate machine who have been working together in rather close quarters for at least ten years.  It’s Ted’s 30th anniversary with the company and he’s feeling numb.  So much so that he drives a staple into his hand just so he might feel something.  Monica is feeling something though - something a little deeper and more pressing than a staple in the hand.  Monica has that sacred itch and at this point only Ted can scratch it.  A bell is heard and a memo appears in a box.  “Get back to work”, it says, “or you’ll be subject to immediate termination”.  But termination at this company doesn’t mean what you may think. The company, after all, controls the oxygen flow to the office and Ted and Monica are theirs for the rest of their lives.

I really enjoyed this short dark comedy.  Cain’s script is sharp and subtle.  At the top of the show you may think that this play is just another story about nameless, nobodies working in the corporate underbelly but it is far from that.  The script unfolds gradually to reveal darker and darker revelations about the world of the play.  I found it to be an absolutely hilarious slow burner that trucks along at a good pace and leaves you wanting a little more.  Cain also does a fine job directing a talented cast of two.

Deacon Hoy plays Ted as an exasperated and defeated shell of a man who once had a family and creativity.  Hoy’s tension and fear dominate his every line with only a few moments of clarity shining through that seem to be remnants of the man he used to be. Margie Ferris plays Monica with a nice balance of charm, desperation and drive.  It seems that at any moment Ferris might burst open and reveal herself to be a vicious killer.  Together their onstage chemistry reeks of commitment to these odd characters.

Enough’s Enough is good fringe theater.  It is fresh, dark and out of the ordinary.  FringeNYC is good for finding bold new voices and performers.  This show delivers both.